Nash 1947: Car Production Hits Six Figures

hurricane sixOn January 6, as Nash continued to be rocked by shortages, George Mason claimed that the magic formula for success in America was wage stabilization; a free flow of materials; and lower prices. The automaker [which paid below industry rates - ed.] was also experiencing a serious shortage of labor skills. In March, Nash officials noted that 500 workers “with a wide range of skills” were needed immediately and that the firm’s long-range production program eventually would require the hiring of 2,000 additional workers.1

Cars might not be widely available, but Topel-Nash threw open its doors for an open house to show off its new home on January 17 and 18. The magnificently appointed ultra-modern dealership was complete with an interesting display of the new 1947 Nash lineup, billed as “The Superliner of the Highways.”

1947 nash 600

As president of the Automobile Manufacturers’ Association, George Mason warned that there would be massive layoffs throughout the industry if the current amount of pig iron being designated for housing by the government wasn’t reallocated to the automotive sector. “All the evidence we have is that the key to the pig iron shortage is the allocation to housing purposes which seemed to exceed present realistic housing completion schedules.... We are fully aware of other conditions limiting pig iron supply and it is because of these that we maintain it is absolutely necessary to avoid tying up valuable tonnage where it will not be put to immediate use.” 2

By April, Nash had exhausted its meager allocation and was forced to shut down the factory in Kenosha for two days. The lines would reopen but production would be reduced in May and adjusted downward in September for the same reason.3

Credit was also in short supply. To keep a tight reign on consumer goods, the wartime administration had required a third down in cash for a new car and permitted only fifteen months to pay off the balance. With the war long over, Nash-Kelvinator’s Vice-President of Sales, W. H. Doss, went public to urge its repeal.

1947 suburban

On March 29, Local 72 of the UAW-CIO and Nash signed a new contract. This agreement gave workers a 10 cent-per-hour increase in pay. It was considered to be a “down payment” on the new national wage scale, which was still in the making.

Despite the slowdowns and shutdowns, business was good for Nash. More than one midwestern dealer flew into Kenosha Airport in private planes, with drivers who would drive the cars back to the dealerships.

Nash was ready to sell off its wartime surplus of industrial equipment, machine tools and office furniture by midyear. The War Assets Administration handled the auction. Veterans were given priority on bidding and the entire lot was taken out to a plant gate for inspection. Items for sale included blowers, ventilators, laboratory equipment, typewriters, filing equipment, wide-arm and posture chairs, shop benches, scales, desks and fire cards. The bidding was brisk and netted a tidy $3.5 million.

1947 brougham

A Canary Yellow Nash Ambassador sedan paced the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day in 1947. President George Mason got behind the wheel for that first lap around the oval. Nash always marched to the beat of a different drummer; it was the only time in the history of the granddaddy of all races that a closed car paced the event.

On June 11, the entire nation heaved a sigh of relief when the OPA discontinued sugar rationing. The sugar bowl was free for the filling for the first time since May 28, 1942. With that act, the Office of Price Administration ceased to exist.

Nash-Kelvinator’s annual report noted that the constant postwar shortages had prompted the company to purchase more machinery to lessen the need on outside suppliers. The just-in-time delivery system was replaced with storage for in-house parts production. The report was marked with frustration. It clearly but diplomatically accused the Truman administration for needlessly disrupting free enterprise. “The most positive thing that can be said at present is that Nash-Kelvinator is thoroughly prepared to produce at records levels—with supplies being the key to the future” was the optimistic conclusion. (Housing was still critically short across the nation.)4

1947 bedPresident Truman made the first ever televised address from the White House on October 5, admonishing Americans that the Communists were poised to take over Europe, and urging Americans to mark meatless Tuesdays and to eat poultry instead of beef on Thursdays. Food sent to starving Europeans would give them the strength to fight the Red Tide.5

Two-ton Nash trucks, called Haul Thrifts, began coming off the lines in October. Nash had finally decided that these handsome, rugged trucks would be destined for the export market, not the domestic market.

Shortages of all kinds eased as labor peace was achieved, but natural gas shortages caused both Nash and Kelvinator to close the factories several times during the winter months. Still, production of Nash automobiles rose to 113,115 units for the fiscal year, giving the independent automaker 5% of the total manufacturing pie. Despite the healthy rise, the marque settled into a very comfortable tenth place at year’s end as competitors successfully solved their own production nightmares.6

Kenoshans had many blessings to count as they sat down to the Thanksgiving table, and later celebrated the merriest of Christmases since 1929. There would a long road ahead, filled with good years for Nash-Kelvinator, the good people of Wisconsin and Kenosha, and for America.

End Notes: Chapter 11

1, Kenosha Evening News. Nash Anniversary Edition: 1952

2. Ibid.

3. Op.cit.

4. Nash-Kelvinator Annual Report, 1947.

5. AP Wire Service. October 10, 1997

6. Mays, James. From Kenosha to the World, The Rambler, Jeffery and Nash Truck Story, 1904-1955. p.

Also see: Series Contents, Nash Motors, Nash engines, Nash Metropolitan, Jeffery, AMC, the Nash Car Club of America

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